Neighbours to help combat drugs, hopes Rassoul
Attended by more than 29 foreign ministers, senior officials and representatives of neighbouring countries and other key players, the day-long event was inaugurated by Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
Host Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul told reporters on the conclusion of the conference they were confident the Istanbul Declaration would be implemented to ensure peace and security in the region.
A broad range of effective confidence-building measures to promote a secure and stable Afghanistan is the highlight of the declaration, which stressed enhanced cooperation in fighting terrorism, including through exchange of information.
Zalmai Rassoul said the participants had acknowledged the need for cooperation and interaction with Afghanistan and among regional countries in counter-narcotics efforts.
The Istanbul Regional Conference was the first in a series of international conferences on Afghanistan over the next six months. It will be followed by the Bonn Conference on December 5.
In May 2012, a similar gathering is due in Chicago, where the focus will be on international funding for Afghan National Security Forces after the 2014 withdrawal of foreign troops.
Davutoglu announced over a dozen countries had signed a package of confidence-building measures for cooperation in fields of security, reconstruction, public health and the fight against terrorism and drug-trafficking.
US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns hailed the declaration as "the first clear, region-wide statement of support for Afghanistan in this time of transition and reconciliation".
The signatories included Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The regional players also vowed to “respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.
Addressing the conference, Karzai warned on Wednesday there would be no hope for peace in Afghanistan without help from its neighbours, particularly Pakistan, to combat terror groups.
Taliban and other militant leaders could join the peace process if they gave up violence, severed ties with Al Qaeda and returned to a peaceful life under the Afghan Constitution, the president said.
"However, as recent setbacks have indicated, the peace process will not succeed unless we are able to get the top leadership of the Taliban, based in Pakistan, to join it," the president added.
With help from Pakistan, Karzai hoped, his government would manage to wean Taliban leadership away from some of the long-established networks of support they enjoyed outside Afghanistan and integrate them into the peace process.
He billed as a crucial priority the ongoing transition process, which would ultimately see the complete transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghans by the end of 2014. The first phase of transition took place in July, and the second is due in the near future.
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